Computer Engineer Barbie

In this talk, we explore how interaction design outreach during secondary school and early university years can better inspire prolonged interest in computer science amongst women and men alike.

Why is it that computer science curricula in the United States have such a hard time attracting and keeping prospective female students? Many university computer science curricula focus on the theoretical rather than the practical applications of the science – and high school curricula are even more likely to fall into this trap. Many of the women I’ve encountered are looking for something more hands-on, with more direct social benefit. Interaction design as a field hits the right balance of technology, social benefit, and creativity — but interaction design still lags in awareness behind other more traditional technical career options.

This talk explores trends in computing education, and suggests specific outreach activities to use interaction design to provide the missing link of social context to early computer science studies.

Since originally presenting this talk, I channeled my inspiration and created “Making the World Easier with Interaction Design”, an introductory hands-on workshop aimed at middle school and high school students. After teaching the course to over 500 students at Microsoft’s DigiGirlz camps, the University of Washington DawgBytes camp, and Amazon’s GirlsWhoCode camp, I can share my direct insights and pointers for beginning your own outreach.

Delivery options

This talk is designed as a 45-60 minute talk with Q&A, but a streamlined 20-minute version is also available.

Audio + slides available on Vimeo (20-minute version)

As seen at…

  • Interaction ’11 (Boulder)
  • IxDA Seattle
  • GeekGirlCon 2011